League One play-offs preview: Grayson grateful for Preston's second chance
Simon Grayson has warned his Preston North End side they have no time to feel sorry for themselves as they travel to Chesterfield for Thursday's League One play-offs semi-final first leg.
Preston were second heading into the final day of the regular season and victory over lowly Colchester United would have secured an automatic return to the Championship after four years in the third tier.
However, the Lancashire club - who have failed in nine previous play-off attempts - fluffed their lines at the Weston Community Homes Stadium as Colchester secured a 1-0 win and another term in League One, while MK Dons leapfrogged Preston courtesy of a 5-1 battering of rock-bottom Yeovil Town.
Manager Grayson - previously promoted from League One with Blackpool, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town - has urged his team to take advantage of their second chance.
"We have got to pick ourselves up very quickly," he told Preston's official website ahead of the trip to the Proact Stadium. "We have emphasised to the players that we have now got a second opportunity to still get promoted into the Championship.
"We haven't got any time to wallow in self-pity or anything."
Chesterfield are gunning for back-to-back promotions having gone up as champions from League Two in the 2013-14 campaign.
Paul Cook's men have won just one of their past five games and were beaten 2-0 at home by Preston in February.
But centre-back Ian Evatt believes Chesterfield can capitalise on Preston's disappointment, saying: "It can't be nice, can it? They'll be having a big, long, hard think about themselves."
Like Preston, Sheffield United have proved perennial play-off underachievers and they host Swindon Town at Bramall Lane in the other semi-final.
United have featured in the Football League play-offs on seven occasions, but have never been promoted via that route - losing four finals.
Manager Nigel Clough nevertheless believes his side are up to the task and said: "We know what we have to do. We've got to stay concentrated and professional at all times. We've faced this challenge before and hopefully that will help."
For a long time it appeared as though Swindon might go up automatically, but a five-match winless run ended that prospect.
Swindon will feature in the play-offs for the second time in three seasons, having lost in the semi-finals to Brentford in 2012-13.